HENNEPIN, Louis (1640-?1705). A New Discovery of a vast Country in America, Extending above Four Thousand Miles, between New France and New Mexico; with a Description of the Great Lakes, Cataracts, Rivers, Plants, and Animals. Also, the Manners, Customs, and Languages of the several Native Indians; and the Advantage of Commerce with those different Nations. London: Printed for M. Bentley, J. Tonson, H. Bonwick, T. Goodwin, and S. Manship, 1698.
2 volumes in one (7 2/8 x 4 2/8 inches). 2 large engraved folding maps (laid down on heavier but old stock), engraved frontispiece to volume one, 6 engraved folding plates (laid down as above) (browned and spotted throughout). Modern panelled calf antique.
THE FIRST DEPICTION OF NIAGARA FALLS
Second English edition, considered typographically superior to the first, and first published in French in 1697. Two English editions were printed in 1698, this edition has the first line of the printers on the title-page ending in "Tonson", and has alterations to the page numbers on the plates.
The maps are: "A Map of a Large Country Newly discovered in the Northern America Situated between New Mexico And the Frozen Sea together with the Course of the Great River Meschasipi ...", and "A Map of A New World between New Mexico and the Frozen Sea Newly Discovered by Father Lewis Hennepin. Missionary Recollect and Native of Aht in Hainault..."
An important but much decried account of Hennepin's travels in what is now the United States and Canada, including his probably fictitious description of his voyage down, and up, the Mississippi. One of the two plates is the first depiction of the Niagara Falls.
Hennepin made two voyages to the New World, the first was on the same boat as the explorer René-Robert Cavalier de La Salle, arriving in Quebec in 1675. The following year he traveled to Fort Frontenac (now Kingston) on Lake Ontario and helped establish a mission there. In 1678 Hennepin was reassigned to Quebec and in November of that year accompanied La Salle on his exploration into the Great Lakes region. Hennepin accompanied Accault on an exploratory expedition of the Mississippi valley, and was taken prisoner by the Sioux. Rescued in 1681 by a small party of French explorers led by Daniel Greylsolon, sieur du Lhut, he returned to France and published an account of his adventures as "Description de la Louisiane" in 1683.
Fleeing from France in disgrace in 1692 Hennepin sought the protection of King William III of England. He audaciously proposed colonization of the Mississippi Valley to the King, and through the assistance of the British secretary of war was permitted to travel to Amsterdam to publish works on North America and make preparations for potential British colonization of the American interior. "Unable to publish his proposed works in Amsterdam, Hennepin subsequently traveled to Utrecht and with British assistance published there two major works on early North America, "Nouvelle découverte d'un très grand pays, situé dans l'Amérique" (1697) and "Nouveau Voyage d'un païs plus grand que l'Europe". In these works Hennepin falsely claimed to have made a voyage of discovery along the lower Mississippi River before La Salle's famous descent of the river in 1682; in both books, the former missionary claimed that he urged the British monarchy to colonize the Mississippi Valley. Hennepin is noteworthy primarily because of his three book-length publications that were translated into numerous European languages in more than forty editions. The first established his reputation as a major figure in the European exploration of the North American interior; it also helped to focus the attention of the major European powers and the European scientific community on the importance of Mississippi Valley exploration and development. The latter two books, based as they were on fallacious information, largely destroyed Hennepin's reputation both as a writer and as an authority on North American exploration. The works nevertheless had a profound impact on North American colonization. Fearing that William III would follow Hennepin's advice, France organized a major colonization expedition to the mouth of the Mississippi River. In 1699, two years after publication of Hennepin's notorious Utrecht books, French forces established Fort Maurepas near present-day Biloxi, Mississippi, to safeguard France's interests in the lower Mississippi Valley" (ADNB). Alden & Landis 698/100; Church 773; Howes H-416; Graff 1862; Sabin 31370; Vail 278; Wing H-1451. Catalogued by Kate Hunter